Bold playoff prediction...with a little bit of cheating
My favorite part of the year has arrived. I love the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There are three main reasons I enjoy them so much:
1. The only playoffs with a name. No other sport dares name their playoffs. They are just the playoffs. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are an event, a series of games in which men leave blood sweat and tears on the ice just so they can skate around like kids kissing and hugging Lord Stanley's Cup.
2. Playoff beards. There is no other sport where men subject themselves to upset wives who are disgusted with them for two months with the excuse "all the other guys are doing it." (even though I thought Brett Favre went a little playoff beard last year) If I don't shave for three days my wife won't sit next to me on the couch. Love the dedication.
3. The jerseys. We'll get into this in my breakdowns of the series', but there is no other sport that has the majesty, elegance and toughness of the hockey sweater. (Unless you're the Atlanta Thrashers, there is a reason you don't ever make the playoffs, guys).
Everyone raves about how much they love the last week of March and the first week of April in sports. The Final Four, Opening Day, the Masters. I can't wait for those days to be over and the Stanley Cup Playoffs to start.
(In an effort of full disclosure I watched every second of the Final Four and National Championship game, watched three opening day baseball games, and probably 30 hours of the Masters. I love those events. I celebrate Opening Day like the holiest of holidays. (I woke up my daughter that day with the "Charge" chant.) I won the KTAR Bracket Challenge because of Duke. (Sorry to dethrone you Adam Green, but my daughter thanks everyone for the new car seat and swim suits.) And the Masters is on my Sports Bucket List. (I'll go some year where I don't have to worry about adult film stars inhabiting the local gentlemen's clubs.) Even with all that said I am still waiting for those events to pass so I can enjoy the best two months of any sport. Only because the World Cup lasts just a month.)
Here is my standard issue playoff break down (after one game has been played in each series. It's easier to predict that way. I don't know why everyone does it before the series starts; that is way too hard.)
(4) Coyotes v. (5) Red Wings
The Coyotes took Game 1 of this series doing what they didn't do all year. Scoring on the Power Play. Brilliant move by head coach Dave Tippett to make everyone think you stink on the power play all season, so when the playoffs come you can dominate. But in all seriousness the ‘Yotes showed the tough aggressive play along with good goal tending that landed them a franchise record 107 points and the number four seed. Everyone was scared of the Wings coming into the series and rightfully so. Detroit was Natalie Portman hot coming into the playoffs; putting together the best record in the West since the Olympic Break. But Detroit's major flaw is two fold. So I guess it is major flaws. One, they have a rookie goaltender, Jimmy Howard who, despite the close name, does not also play for the USA National team or Everton FC in the English Premier league, has been very good but I'm pretty sure it's a rule that rookie goaltenders are always in fact playing in their first Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two, they are healthy but not in game shape yet. Too many key players came back late in the season and won't have the legs to get through the series.
Straight Logic Prediction: The Maricopa County Coyotes (has a nice ring to it) win in 6. After Game 1, I'm pretty sure Shane Doan will play every shift in Game 6 to win the series.
Jersey Prediction: That is right Jersey Prediction! The Playoffs don't always come down to who's better but who looks better. This one goes to the Red Wings in 5 (it would have been a sweep but they already lost a game). I hate the Red Wings but they have a sweet jersey. Classic Hockey stripes along with a logo that hasn't changed in almost a 100 years. Sorry Phoenicians but the ‘Yotes jersey's are better than they were, but not quite there yet. (I'm pretending the Coyotes' third jersey doesn't exist, because it shouldn't.)
(1) Sharks v. (8) Avalanche
The Avalanche got a lucky bounce off of former ‘Lanche Rob Blake's skate with fifty seconds to go to win Game 1. While I love the talent on the Colorado team I just think the Sharks have too many scorers, led by Patrick Marleau and Danny Heatley, and in my opinion the third best player in the league Joe Thorton. This should be great experience for the likes of Chris Stewart, Paul Stastny, and Matt Duchene.
Straight Logic Prediction: Sharks in 6, barely.
Jersey Prediction: This is a tough one. Both are solid jerseys with new era designs, but I'm going to have to go with the Sharks. The Avalanche have a lack of piping on the sleeve that bothers me. And quite frankly San Jose's logo scares me. I don't like sharks. If a puck can ride down an Avalanche why can't I survive. Sharks in 6.
(3) Canucks v. (6) Kings
This game is exactly why I love the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two teams that haven't received a lot of pub this year step out on the ice and just play a crazy game of hockey. I love the youth of the Kings. Jack Johnson can not only serenade the ladies with his acoustic guitar but he plays a killer blue line. Quick is a great goalie and will should win a Vesina trophy at some point in his career. The Canucks have some brothers however that can completely take over a playoff series. I've always enjoyed the brother's aspect in sports. Rarely do you get the brothers on the same team, on the same line. It's almost unfair. They've been playing together since the womb, like they don't know what the other is thinking.
Straight Logic Prediction: Canucks in 7. If I'm the Canucks I draft a pair of twins every single year and have one set on each line. How can this fail. Plus Roberto Louongo is too good and has already won an Olympic Gold medal for his country. (I also love the Canucks gave Louongo the ‘C' this year. You never see goalies get the ‘C'. Partially because it's the Capitan's job to argue calls with the ref and that is hard when you're in goal, but I love it. Martin Broduer isn't even a Capitan. Shows how much the Canucks trust Louongo. Goalies are traditionally great leaders, all though they are all a little off in the head. Anyone who thinks ‘sure shoot vulcanized rubber at me as hard as you can so I can let it bounce off my body' has a few nuts loose.
Jersey Prediction: This one is tough, I hate the whale, but the style of the jersey the shoulder patch and the color scheme are all great for Vancouver. The Kings have a good logo, and basic jersey design. I'm going to have to go with Vancouver in 6 mostly based on the color scheme. I hate purple in jerseys.
(2) Blackhawks v. (7) Predators
If you like hockey at all you have to love this Blackhawks team. They are young, they are talented and they are fun to watch. Three key stars for Chicago, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith will shine and show everyone why Chicago will be a force for the next 10 years. (All of these guys have great hockey names as well. Duncan Keith is my favorite. You have to love some quality two first names for a name situation.) Nashville is an interesting mix of veterans and some young players. They don't score a ton, which as I see it is normally not good.
Straight Logic Prediction: Blackhawks in 4. Give me some credit the series hasn't started yet and I'm still going with the sweep! The Preds just don't have enough this year, not that many teams meeting Chicago in the first round would stand much of a chance.
Jersey Prediction:Blackhawks in 4. This was the easiest of the first round matchups. If I could I would have picked Chicago in two. Nashville knows going in they have now chance against those jersey's, so they play two games for the heck of it and then just quit.
TO THE EASTERN CONFERENCE!
(1) Capitals v. (8) Canadiens
Game 1 was a total shocker to me. The Capitals are heads and tails better than every team in the Eastern Conference. They have the best all around player in the league in Alexander Ovechkin, and they play great as a team. Well the Canadiens just kept going at him, and instead of trying to always play the body, which doesn't always turn out well against Ovey, they went for the puck just to get it off his stick. Great work.
Straight Logic Prediction: Capitals in 6. If I had done this before the playoffs I probably would have taken Washington in 4. Well who looks smart now? I think Jose Theodore has one awful game in this series, but there is no way the Ovechkin gets held to no shots on goal ever again.
Jersey Prediction: Tough tough matchup. The classic Habs against a solid redo Caps jersey. (for the not uniformed about why the Canadiens are called the ‘Habs' by their fans, it is actually quite a simple explanation. It is short for Inhabitants. They are the Canadiens, the inhibitors of the country of Canada. So they are the ‘Habs'. Now why do they spell their name with an ‘e' at the end instead of an ‘a'? I couldn't tell you, Canadians are weird.) I can't deny the white Habs jersey. It is too good and just eeks Montreal past Washington in 7 games.
(3) Sabres v. (6) Bruins
I love this series. Two teams I really enjoy watching. They both play tough hard nosed north-eastern style hockey. They both have great fan bases who know so much about the game. Should be a great series. If Game 1 was any indicator, it will be fun to the bitter end.
Straight Logic Prediction: Buffalo in 5. I'm sad it is only going to go this long. But there are two words that make this an easy prediction. Ryan Miller. The goaltender for the Sabres is so good he will carry his team on his back; just like he did in the Olympics for the USA. I haven't said it yet because I was waiting for this section, but goaltending wins you Stanley Cups, and Buffalo has the best. Sadly, Boston is caught between the old guard (Tim Thomas) and the new buck (Tuukka Rask) in net. Miller will be too tough, just like Game 1.
Jersey Prediction: In a fantastic twist, these two teams have two of the best Third Jersey's in the league. And in a great twist the Sabres wore theirs in Game 1! I was so excited I yelped a little. It was kind of embarrassing but I didn't care. Sadly the series hinges on the whole catalog of jerseys. (unless there was some way to guarantee Buffalo would wear their third the whole series) I'm going to have to give this to Boston in 6. They are just, as a whole much better than Buffalo in the sweater category. And even the best goaltending can't save you from a bad logo.
(2) Devils v. (7) Flyers
If I'm a New Jersey fan I'm scared to face Philly. Getting into the playoffs by beating the Rangers in a shootout carries a lot of momentum into the playoffs. It got them over the hump in Game 1. The Flyers looked good against a New Jersey team that has been playing second fiddle to Washington in the East all year. I'm just not sure that Brian Boucher will play as well as he has over the last month for the entire series. Plus in the opposite crease a guy by the name of Martin Brodeur. I hear he's good.
Straight Logic Prediction: Devils in 6. Brodeur prevails. He's the all time leader in wins for a goal- tender and he always seems to will the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals every few years. And it's been a few since New Jersey was there. Don't forget about Zach Parise, by the way. The kid is skilled like few others in the league and coming off a great Olympic Games is looking to make himself a house hold name.
Jersey Prediction: Why I wish the Devils still wore the Green and Red Jerseys, they still have a great looking sweater. I don't like the Flyers, I'm not sure if it is the orange or just that it is too plain. Devils in 6.
(4) Penguins v. (5) Senators
The Penguins have a guy by the name of Sydney Crosby leading the way in Pittsburgh. Even with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin I'm not sold on the Penguins this year. They have played a lot of games over the last two years; making the Stanley Cup Finals both years and winning it once. Not to forget they had five Olympians. I think Marc Andre-Fleury is tired, and something has been off with him all year. The Sens have the backing of Carrie Underwood (who is engaged to Mike Fischer). They also have one of the best lead by example Captains in the league in Daniel Alfredsson. (He's right behind the ‘Yotes Shane Doan).
Straight Logic Prediction: Ottawa in 7. I think the Sens are getting overlooked here. The Penguins have made great runs in the last two seasons and I just think they have hit a wall. Ottawa is Canada's best chance to get to the Finals in the east.
Jersey Prediction: Wow, I'm not huge on either of these teams garb. Penguins in 7. Pens in 5 if they decide to wear their sweet third jersey the rest of the series.
We'll be back after the first round to break down what we'll see in the second round. I might wait until two games are done to do that one though. It is just so much easier this way.